In a near replay of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the Congress-NCP alliance was completely routed. While the Congress was leading in just one seat Chandrapur (Vidarbha), its ally NCP won four seats — Satara, Shirur, Baramati in western Maharashtra and Raigad in Konkan region. The AIMIM, under the banner of Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), won from Aurangabad in Marathwada. In Amravati, an Independent candidate (backed by NCP) was leading.
For its part, the BJP won 23 of the 25 seats it contested. The Shiv Sena, which contested 23 seats, bagged 18, despite facing severe anti-incumbency in 10 of the seats.
Despite its relentless criticism of Prime Minister Narendra Modi before sealing an alliance with the BJP, the Sena entirely banked on ‘Moditva’ to see its candidates through. On Thursday, Sena president Uddhav Thackeray lavished gratitude on the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah-Devendra Fadnavis combine.
The BJP-Shiv Sena retained its majority in Vidarbha, Marathwada, north Maharashtra and Konkan while making deeper inroads in western Maharashtra, further loosening the Congress-NCP’s hold.
The four-phased election in Maharashtra took place in the shadow of severe drought, with the state government declaring 151 of the 355 drought affected. Yet, the agrarian crisis, coupled with unrest in the farming community, did not translate into anger against the BJP-Sena combine.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis described the electoral outcome as the people’s unwavering faith in Modi’s leadership. “There was a strong silent wave in favour of Modi. It turned into tsunami. The election results show people transcended caste, community, class and religion to exercise their franchise in favour of Modi for the developmental plank, specially oriented towards upliftment of poor, farmers and middle class.”
NCP president Sharad Pawar, who had initiated the process of Mahagatbhandhan, was candid in expressing huge disappointment. Pawar, who was set to go Delhi, called off the visit. Speaking to mediapersons, he said, “Our estimate was we would win 11 seats.”
State Congress chief Ashok Chavan, who had survived the 2014 Modi wave, failed to hold his home turf Nanded, inviting brick bats from the organisation for failed leadership.
Former Opposition leader and senior Congressman Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil fired the first salvo, blaming the state Congress leadership for the performance. Vikhe-Patil was categorical in stating he is set to bid farewell to Congress and join BJP ahead of the Assembly elections later this year. His son Sujay, who had joined BJP ahead of the polls, won from Ahmednagar.
“Wrong political strategy, coupled with vested interests, marred Congress-NCP’s electoral prospects, giving a huge advantage to BJP-Sena,” said Vikhe-Patil.
A political manager in the Congress-NCP said, “The Congress-NCP’s failure to adopt flexibility, coupled with Pawar’s flip flop in Madha, where he declared to contest and then withdrew, was a wrong move. Secondly, the defection of established Congress-NCP political families to the BJP also weakened the moral of the cadre.”
Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh president Parkash Ambedkar’s decision to forge an alliance with AIMIM under the banner of VBA proved fatal for the Congress-NCP. Though Ambedkar himself failed to win either of his seats, his outfit cut into Dalit and Muslim voters, who would have otherwise voted for Congress and NCP.
Also, while MNS president Raj Thackeray’s public rallies against Modi drew huge crowd, it failed in delivering electoral results in favour of Congress-NCP.